Second Hand “Reality”

Second Hand’s Reality is rarely mentioned when collectors compile their lists of best ever UK psych albums.  That’s a shame, because Reality is probably better than most of the well-known psych classics.

Second Hand was originally known as The Next Collection, a Clapham/Balham/Streatham group who, early on, were structured around the guitar talents of Bob Gibbons (Gibbons would eventually quit the band due to depression).  The Next Collection were heavily influenced by the sounds of the Who, the Creation and the Small Faces, utilizing feedback and charging arrangements in many of their early tunes.  The axis of the group would eventually become keyboard player Kenny Elliot and drummer Kieran O’Connor.  This group would change their name to the Moving Finger as psychedelia became the new trend and some time later, they’d eventually settle on Second Hand.  Early copies of their debut, released in 1968, are in fact credited to the Moving Finger.  The group changed their name to Second Hand because another group called the Moving Finger had just released a 45 on Mercury.

Lots of people comment that the album’s one weak point is Kenny Elliot’s vocals.  This reviewer feels his vocals fit the music appropriately and do not take anything away from the album’s greatness.  Some tracks such as “A Fairy Tale” and “Good Old ’59” are appealingly twee while others hit much harder, like the stoner rock of ‘Rhubarb!”  There’s lots of mellotron and cool studio tricks throughout Reality.  The album’s one certified classic, “The World Will End Yesterday” has swirling backward tapes, crashing drums and heavy guitar – a psych masterpiece!  A few of the longer cuts have led some people to unfairly label this disc prog.  Reality is pure psychedelia but more experimental and challenging than most.  Two sad drug OD songs (“MainLiner” and “The Bath Song”) hit really low, downer moods but are truly brilliant.  An album that can be played from beginning to end, without skipping thru any tracks.  One of the great unknown LPs from 1968.

Second Hand would issue their second album in 1971.  This disc, titled May Death Be Your Santa Claus, is another standout effort from the early progressive era, full of great ideas and eccentric music.

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“Good Old ’59 (We Are Slowly Getting Older)”

:D CD Reissue | 2007 | Sunbeam | at amazon ]
:) Orig Vinyl | 1968 |  Polydor | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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  • Len Liechti

    Wow, this sounds like a fine find judging from the MP3s. Galactic Ramble gives the album an unreserved thumbs-up, and one reviewer on also offers an interesting historical perspective on the band members’ further careers, well worth a read. I don’t find the vocals at all distracting – the effort and occasional offkey bits sit fine within the general anarchic structure of the music. I’ll be purchasing this one for sure. Thanks, Jason.

  • Jason

    Len thanks for the good words regarding the site…but you also make it what it is and we are always grateful for your contributions. I’ve been working quite a bit but plan to contribute more in the future. Second Hand is one of the better unknown bands from this period. If you like progressive rock…..their Death May Be is really good too. Not your typical prog album either. Hopefully someone will review it here, on

  • Anonymous

    The vocals definitely hurt this album. Sounds like Neil Diamond or Engleburt Humperdink.

  • Brendan

    I can handle the vocals just fine. May be a little adventurous or left field, but much more acceptable and soulful than the overwrought, pretentious twerps I hear singing on records today.

  • Len Liechti

    OK – got it, played it, was zonked out by it. In fact I was so impressed that I played it three times end-to-end while I finished off the kitchen wallpaper hanging today. To put it bluntly, I consider this the best new album I’ve heard so far this year, and one of the best psych-into-heavy-prog collections I’ve ever heard. Not the least amazing thing about this album is that the musicians were, according to the record’s producer in his jacket notes, all about sixteen years old. How do kids that age compose and play a work as ambitious, adventurous, complex and imaginative as this? If it wasn’t for the clearly young voice intoning the newsreader bit over the final track’s fadeout, I’d swear it wasn’t true. And that guitar player sounds like Hendrix, Peter Green AND Duane Allman; nobody that young has a right to be that good. (OK, so there’s Randy California, Shuggie Otis, Jimmy McCulloch . . . ) And the vocals STILL don’t faze me – they’re not that far from Ian Gillan with Purple, and a damn sight less irritating than that ululating idiot with AC/DC! Unreservedly recommended.

  • Jason

    Mainliner is one of my favorites off the above album. Second Hand’s second disc is very good too but totally different….heavy progressive rock – nothing like ELP or Yes – more free form and eccentric. They made a jam disc calling themselves Chillium – it’s merely ok, not worth spending the money on (essentially a 3rd Second Hand album)…then two of the members veered off into electronic music around 73/74, releasing some interesting albums. The third Deep Purple album from 69 is great…sort of progressive psych.

  • Len Liechti

    Is that the eponymous Purple album, Jason? And what’s your opinion of Shades Of and Book Of Taliesyn? These generally get a poor critical press. I’ll swear by everything from In Rock to Who Do We Thing We Are, ie. the Mark II canon. Need to investigate the earlier stuff . . .

  • Dan

    The timbre of Elliot’s vocal is perfect, and their decision on “Good Old ’59” to channel it to the right speaker is brilliant and separates this track from the frillions of imitators. The song is driving and fun and exuberant and yet paradoxically complains about getting older, how fun.

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